Mariah Carey opens up about her struggle with bipolar disorder for the first time in a new interview with People, published today. The singer, 48, was diagnosed in 2001 after being hospitalized for a mental and physical breakdown, and had quietly been struggling in the limelight since.
“I didn’t want to believe it,” said Carey. She sought help “recently,” according to the magazine, after the “hardest couple years I’ve been through.”
“Until recently I lived in denial and isolation and in constant fear someone would expose me,” she continued. “It was too heavy a burden to carry and I simply couldn’t do that anymore. I sought and received treatment, I put positive people around me and I got back to doing what I love—writing songs and making music.”
Carey also personally announced the news to her 6.6 million Instagram followers this morning. She posted her People cover story and wrote in the caption, “I’m grateful to be sharing this part of my journey with you.”
Currently, Carey is in therapy and taking medication for bipolar II disorder, “which involves periods of depression as well as hypomania (less severe than the mania associated with bipolar I disorder, but can still cause irritability, sleeplessness and hyperactivity),” People describes.
The music icon first thought she had severe sleep disorder, but realized she wasn’t experiencing “normal” insomnia. “I was working and working and working,” she explained. “I was irritable and in constant fear of letting people down. It turns out that I was experiencing a form of mania. Eventually I would just hit a wall. I guess my depressive episodes were characterized by having very low energy. I would feel so lonely and sad—even guilty that I wasn’t doing what I needed to be doing for my career.”
After about 17 years suffering in silence, Carey finally chose to open up about her mental health battle because she’s “in a really good place right now, where I’m comfortable discussing my struggles with bipolar II disorder.”
She’s also speaking out to fight the stigma. “I’m hopeful we can get to a place where the stigma is lifted from people going through anything alone,” she added. “It can be incredibly isolating. It does not have to define you and I refuse to allow it to define me or control me.”
Sure enough, Carey’s followers poured in messages of love and support for the singer in her Instagram comments. Some even wrote of having the same diagnosis and others praised her decision to break her silence.
This article originally appeared on Harper’s Bazaar US.